Ann-Marie Spittle

THE WAR BUS

There he sits
Waiting patiently for the bus
For the parade of memories
A bowler hat of black
An old blanket coat for warmth
And shinning representations of courage on his breast

Beside him youths dance
Hooded tops and jeans fall past their knees
Laughing to loudly
Trying to make themselves seen and heard

He took no notice
Lost in his world of remembrance
Trying to be still and quite
Blend into the background

One approaches him acting big
Sees the medals
Asks him what he did in the war
Sniggers came from the other crows
Huddled together in their mindless group
As they caw their replies

He looks up at the boy
And smiles as if he recognises the face
Then speaks in a quiet voice
“You remind me of Jonesy,
A mate of mine from the war”

“Was he brave like me?” said the youth
Swelling his chest
Raising caws of laughter from the others.
“Till he was torn to shreds by shrapnel.
Then he cried like a baby till we shot him
Such a waste of a lovely voice.”
He bowed his head as he said it
Returning to the moment once again
A tear following the lines of age

The boy grows ashen
And looks at him differently
“You’re sick old man.
You’re trying to scare me”
His grey eyes that had seen many winters
Looked into the very soul of the boy
And he seemed to speak in the voice of a crowd
“But could you have done it?
Stood in my shoes for a single day
And killed to make it through
To see the light go out in eyes
That should be here too.
And hold a man as he loses his blood
Where rotting corpses lay.
That is why I stand here waiting
Upon Remembrance Day”

The boy grew ill as he thought on still
Of what the man had said
And he knew from his eyes these were not lies
That came forth from his head
The old man smiled and tipped his hat
As the bus arrived and said
“If you’ve got the guts
Then ride with us
On this Remembrance Day”

The boys climbed on and saw before them
Sites the likes they’d never seen
Men with patches over their eyes
Or face to see save but a slit of a smile
But they all laughed and cried as the man beside
Them introduced them all to the boys
“These lads want to know
What it’s all for
And we’ll show them why today”

The tales flowed thick and fast
Among the men upon that bus
And the boys learned of the sacrifice
They made for them and us
But all was told in a matter of fact
And no one was reviled
They told the tales of the wars they’d seen
And it changed the boys inside

And when they joined the great parade
As guests of all the men
They marched beside
With their heads held high
And pushed those who needed the speed
And when they left and they waved goodbye
They muttered to themselves
They passed an Army poster
And bowed their heads that day
And thought of their mate out in Iraq
That they’d ridiculed far away

When their mate came home
From the heat all worn
And his heart all full of dread
They hugged him hard
In his old back yard
And said sorry for what they’d said
For they realised that quiet day
Where no bombs of bullets fell
That they were free
Because the Allies fought
To keep the world that way